Ukranian students share experiences, enrich school culture


Grayslake North contains students of all nationalities, races, and origins, but a group to highlight this year is some Ukrainian students at North that may not be widely known. These students have shared experiences that others at North can learn from or may not be able to relate to. They traveled over 5,200 miles to experience life as a student in Illinois.

“It was pretty good, but before I came to the United States, I had to live in Europe for a little bit and then I came to the United States. I can’t say that everything was pretty easy and I did have any hard things going on,” said junior Mariia Borodata.

“Before my flight [to the U.S.], we had to stay in a hotel for two days. We were isolated, and we had to wear masks during our flight. We were still able to travel, so that’s good, but that was in 2021,” said senior Sonya Voitenko.

These students also learned about and experienced the U.S. They heard facts or common sayings about America, and when they came, were able to learn for themselves the truth.

“I heard that Americans don’t care what they wear to school, and that they wear pajamas. I was like ‘that’s not true’ but then I came to school, and I was like, ‘oh my gosh’,” Voitenko said.

“I’m still trying to adjust to American culture. I can’t perfectly understand people, but I’m trying,” Borodata said.
“The food was definitely something that I noticed was different. I also noticed the roads and highways were much more straight in America,” Voitneko said.

“I think the opportunity that I get with education is an experience I could only get here because it’s really high level if you compare it to Ukrainian education,” Borodata said.

Junior Artem Oleshko said he had to travel from Ukraine to Poland first, then to Denmark and finally from there to the U.S. He described this process as easy.

Something different about Ukraine compared to the U.S. is that people live in flats similar to other countries in Europe like England.

Another student noticed a stereotype about America that in her opinion seemed untrue. She had heard that Americans were always smiling, but when she came here and enrolled at GNHS, she didn’t see many smiling faces.

After being asked to give some advice to any students traveling to America for the first time, Voitneko said, “Definitely don’t start eating all the fast food, limit yourself and try to like not become lazy.”

Students who transferred here also had a limited amount of items they could bring. They left their country with a certain amount of items and had to build new important memories here.
“I brought my flag and my stuffed animal hedgehog. It just reminds me of my childhood,” Voitneko said.

Some of these students also left their families behind in a crisis or at home safe in order to experience our country.

“My family misses me, but they support me. We FaceTime a lot to keep connections, but I’ve definitely felt like I’ve grown since I left. I feel like I’ll come back as a completely different person, but they accept me,” Voitenko said.

“My family is doing okay with me being gone because I’ve always wanted to go to the United States, and they’ve always been ready for that, so they’ve just supported me,” Borodata said.

There are a few of these students who transferred here to North that plan to come back to the U.S. after some time.

“Once I graduate, I really want to go back and visit my family, and then I’ll come back to America for college,” Voitenko said.

The students who traveled here from Ukraine have built new bonds here. Their experiences from these two very different countries have created a new view of the world, and these students will continue to learn new things about this country as they practice their education here at GNHS.